American Airlines stock sinks as carrier expects $350 million fallout from 737 Max groundings

The carrier cut its 2019 earnings forecast as it anticipates a $350 million hit to pretax earnings after grounding its 737 Max fleet. Read more...

American Airlines stock fell nearly 3% Friday after the carrier lowered its earnings forecast for the year, citing a major financial hit from the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max jets and higher fuel prices.

The carrier expects a hit to pretax earnings of $350 million after grounding its Max fleet and canceling thousands of flights through August. American also expects 2019 adjusted profit to be between $4 and $6 per share.

Shares of American are down more than 25% in the last 12 months but had risen 4% this year.

Here’s what the airline reported, versus average analysts estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted earnings: 52 cents vs 51 cents per share forecast
  • Revenue: $10.58 billion vs $10.59 billion forecast

The carrier also raised its 2019 fuel cost guidance by $650 million due to higher costs.

American has grounded its 24 Boeing 737 Max jets through August after the anti-stall software was identified as a likely cause in two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. The roughly 155 canceled flights a day comprise 1.5% of American Airlines’ total capacity per day in the summer.

American said that first-quarter net income rose to $185 million, or 41 cents per share, from $159 million, or 34 cents a share, a year earlier. Adjusted earnings were 52 cents a share, topping analyst estimates by a penny.

Revenue rose 1.8% to $10.58 billion from $10.4 billion a year earlier, slightly missing analyst estimates.

Revenue per available seat mile, a key industry metric, rose by 0.5% to 15.87 cents from a year earlier. Excluding fuel and special items, cost per available seat mile was 11.88 cents, up 2.7% year over year, by a higher volume of heavy maintenance checks.

Despite challenges, American’s CEO Doug Parker said that demand was strong heading into the summer. The airline expects unit revenue, which compares sales with flight capacity, to rise by 1% to 3% next quarter.

“As we look forward to 2020 and beyond, we anticipate that our free cash flow production will increase significantly as our historic fleet replacement program winds down. We are very bullish on our future and focused on creating value for our shareholders,” he said.

It’s unclear when the Max, which has been grounded since mid-March, will return. Several major airlines have canceled thousands of flights through the summer. Boeing has stopped all deliveries and cut production by 20%, and said it has completed 96 flights totaling over 159 hours of air time with the new Max software fix.

Southwest Airlines on Thursday reported that the Max groundings, as well as the U.S. government shutdown and some maintenance issues, cost the airline more than $200 million in revenue.

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